In most business lines and market segments, there is severe online competition for public attention.

However, a lot of businesses are not at all aware of the nature of this competition and its own position in it. Most of the time, you know very little about exactly where you stand against your competitors. What steps you could take to catch up or gain an advantage. The solution to this is competitor analysis.

Why is online competitor analysis important before creating a new website or renovating an old one?

Every day on the internet, there is a tough fight for better Google rankings, to reach your target community. An online presence is based on a good quality business website. Online competitor analysis is one of the best tools to get an idea of ​​exactly what kind of website you need to achieve your business goal.

Competitive analysis is like astronomical navigation for old sailors, when the correct direction was estimated based on the visible celestial bodies. Without competitor analysis, we only sail blindly, and if we’re not lucky, we’ll never reach our goal.

Most people, when they want a new website or renovate an old one, have some idea of ​​the design, the logo, and the basic features. But many people have no knowledge of what their competitors are doing on the internet, what kind of website they have, and what content they have. Though they will be playing on the same track, they have to stand their ground in the competition.

They often buy a website and are done. They may be lucky, and that will be enough to succeed. But this is rare. A more common case is that the whole website creation will actually be a waste of money, in whole or in part, due to the ill-considered concept.

If you want a website that is better than the others, you need to know their strengths and weaknesses.

Competitor Analysis

For example, all your competitors may use state-of-the-art design trends on their website, but their content is snappy. Or they don’t care a whit about the website’s search engine optimization, so it can be easily cut in front of them in the search engine.

It’s best to do a competitor analysis before you hire a professional to build or renovate your website. So before you start spending money, you will already have a comprehensive knowledge of what others are doing and how you can be better than them. Where you should spend money on and where you should not.

The key question is: who are your competitors?

The step-zero in competition analysis is to determine who your competitors really are.

We often misjudge who our real competitors are. We think everyone who travels in a similar business as we do.

And this is not always the case. If we squeeze craft beers and our target audience is a particularly conscious beer consumer looking for a specialty, or the pubs that serve them, then Borsodi will probably not be our competition. At the very least, it will be worth positioning ourselves so that this is not the case.

Attention, this does not mean that company size determines who your competitor is. If you want to start a nationwide real estate search website, you can still compete with 99acres.com if you only wanted to deal with the whole thing in a sole proprietorship.

Your competitor is the one who wants to sell a similar product or service to the same target audience as you.

It’s already another step to get out of your competition on the internet. It could easily be that a 99acres is a strong player who is a competitor in real life, not on the internet, because, say, you work with a classic sales network and don’t want to sell anything on the internet. You may even have a website, but you don’t care about it at all to reach your target audience. It does not advertise, it does not search engine optimize. Then you are not competing with him online. Or at least he won’t be the key benchmark.

Rather, you need to pay attention to those who are doing well on the Internet. For example, their website runs a lot of organic (= non-ad generated) traffic. (You can get an idea of ​​this by typing the address of that website into Ubersuggest. The result will be inaccurate, but it will roughly reflect the scale).

Or Google will bring them to the top 10 results for the most important keywords. You may stumble upon their ads step-by-step in the search engine or on Facebook. They need to be caught, they are your real, strong online competitors. You compete with them for the attention of your target audience.

Steps to online competitor analysis

Once you’ve identified the online competition, it’s time to immerse yourself in the analysis. Let’s see them!

If you have already heard of the classic SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), you will not be unfamiliar with the approach. If you haven’t, you don’t have to worry either, we’re not planning a space rocket.

1. Website structure, functionality and user experience

The first step is to go through the websites of the identified competitors one by one. Basically, these questions need to be answered:

  • What is the structure of the website?
  • What features work on the website?
  • What is the user experience like?

Let’s start with the first. What is important to examine is what menu items are on the website, how many subpages, etc. What’s on the home page, how does navigation work? For now, it’s not worth worrying about whether it’s good the way it is. We simply need to record what we find, for example in a table.

The second issue is functionality. These include a pop-up window to help you subscribe to the newsletter, a contact form, a chatbot, a forum, a price calculator, payment and delivery options for a webshop, and more. You can assume that these features are not accidentally listed on the website, but because they really work. Based on this, you can get an idea of ​​what features will be needed on your own website.

This is followed by a user experience survey. Overall, the user experience (UX) means how much people love a particular website, how easy it is to use, and find what they are looking for. The user experience is affected by many things, here are some handrails:

  • What is the website speed? People hate slow websites, yet there are plenty of them. Many times, even by switching to a better quality hosting site, you can gain a slight competitive advantage over the slow, stuttering, and malfunctioning websites of others.
  • Is website design mobile-friendly, responsive? This is now a basic requirement, yet many websites have not yet stepped in.
  • What is the design, the typography like? How easy are the texts to read? This is determined, among other things, by choosing the right font.
  • How easy is navigation, is navigation clear?
  • Have you paid attention to accessibility? It is often a neglected aspect when creating a website, although it can make it easier to reach and retain a lot of users if you pay at least the basics (e.g. appropriate color contrasts, jump links, alternative text on images).

2. Content

Design is important, but the soul of the website is always the content. Images, videos, audio, and above all, texts. Content is primarily what convinces or discourages anyone from trying a product or service.

The quality and quantity of content is the key, so it is an important element of competitor analysis to map out whether there is competition in this area.

Things to look out for:

  • What content is on the main page and important subpages? How much text, what are the images, are there videos or podcasts? How strongly is your content optimized for keywords?
  • Is there a blog on the website? If so, how often do they post? How long are the articles? Does blog implementation reflect a conscious marketing strategy? Are blog articles optimized for individual keywords?
  • What is the quality of the texts, how unique and special are the images? Many times I see that a website is put together honestly and professionally. The texts are just so uncollected, the images are boring that no one can really grasp them, encourage reading and interaction.
  • In the case of a webshop, what are the product descriptions and product images, how elaborate are the categories and product pages?

3. SEO: keywords, external links

One of the most exciting steps in competitor analysis is to examine how the competition is in the field of SEO.

Do they have a conscious search engine optimization strategy or are they just swimming with the tide?

You may be lucky and your competitors may not be searching for search engine optimization at all, or only with bad, outdated methods. In such cases, there is a huge leap forward in professional SEO.

  • What is the organic search engine traffic to their website?
  • What keywords are they optimizing for? How successful is it? What keywords drive significant traffic to their website?
  • How many and what quality of external links point to the website? Do they only have links from lame link farms and link catalogs, or did they get links from serious, relevant professional sites?

You can learn a lot about these, for example, with Screaming Frog , Rank Tracker and SpyGlass , or with the Ubersuggest already mentioned. Each has a free version, but you only have access to all the data if you purchase a subscription. Ahrefs offers the most professional and at the same time the most expensive equipment. Fortunately, you can also access some (limited) features for free. It is a very useful tool for checking the external link and measuring the SEO power of the website (Site Authority).

backlink analysis

4. Social media presence and paid ads

There are a wide variety of paid ads. For example, classic banner or interactive ads, which are used primarily by larger companies because of their low cost. But it also includes much more effective PPC (Pay per Click) ads placed on social media platforms or on Google.

For competitor analysis, it can be important to see how willing competitors are to pay for ads.

This is very difficult to estimate, but in the case of Google, for example, it can give you something to look at if you browse through Google Keyword Planner to see how much they pay on average for a click on keywords that are also important to us. From this we may already have an idea of ​​whether we will have a chance to kick the ball, or rather turn to another method, a channel of achievement (such as SEO).

The other thing to keep in mind is how active our successful competitors are on social media.

What social interfaces and how active do you need to appear if you want to reach your target audience?

It may also turn out that your competitors don’t care about your social media presence at all. In this case, it can also be a jump-out opportunity. But it can also show that they already know how to force social media unnecessarily. It can all depend on many things, such as the target group or the nature of the market.

What can you learn from the end result?

Once you’ve gone through the process, you now have a comprehensive view of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. You know who your strongest competitors are and how to achieve success.

The question is what can you do with this knowledge.

If you want to get the most out of it, use it to put together a conscious strategy. The strategy sets the goal and the path to it.

In a nutshell, for example, it might sound like this: “Ahead of competitors, I want 1,500 to 2,000 organic visitors a month from the search engine within 8 months. This requires a new, search engine friendly website. You need at least one article a week, optimized for the most important keywords. 

In this example, the website is likely to be the lower cost. A lot more money will go to search engine optimization. So, if you have USD 1 thousand for the whole project, you should not spend USD 400-500 for a uniquely developed website, no matter how beautiful the web agency’s grandiose offer of graphic designs and promising chilly features sounds.

I think the most important thing you can learn from competitor analysis is how to group the resources available to you.

For example, how much you will have to spend on online marketing and what amount you will be able to spend specifically on the website. What will be really important on the website (function, content, design element)? What can be omitted or postponed?

If you see that all your competitors are splitting up with a website that follows the latest design trends, and that contributes to their success, then don’t hesitate to spend more on your own website.

If, on the other hand, you are already beating your competitors attacking with 8-10 year old websites with a modern, stable, but simple and concise website, then you do not want to create a big one with the website. We don’t shoot a sparrow with a cannon. Of course, it should be done fairly and work reliably. But you don’t have to step on Apple. Instead, spend the money on content and marketing.

At least that’s what I think. And you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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